We all love Stuckey’s billboards and other roadside signs, so while we were road tripping down I-10 recently through Arizona, we just couldn’t resist taking a detour into Tucson to check out the Ignite Sign Art Museum.

The Signs Were There 

In 1976, a young sign maker named Jude Cook started his sign company, Cook and Company Sign Makers, in Iowa. However, after an especially cold winter in 1983, Jude and his wife Monica decided they wanted to live somewhere warmer. They found the surrounding mountains and hometown feel of Tucson to be most ideal and moved to the “Old Pueblo” in 1985, bringing the sign company along with them. Since then, his sign business, located just off Tucson’s “Sunshine Mile” on Tucson Boulevard, has continued to grow.

Image: Stephanie Stuckey

However, the sign company wasn’t the only thing that continued to grow. Jude not only makes signs, but he’s also a collector of them. As one can imagine, after collecting signs for over 40 years, the signs both big and small started outgrowing his house and his sign shop. That’s when the Cooks started thinking about opening up a sign museum.

A Light Bulb Went Off

After visiting other sign museums like the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, OH, they had an idea of what they wanted their museum to be. First, they knew they wanted their museum to be a little different from the other sign museums out there. After looking over the majority of Jude’s collection, they decided that their museum — now dubbed the Ignite Sign Art Museum — would mostly feature post-World War II signs that highlighted the artistry of these hand-crafted signs. Second, the Cooks wanted the Ignite Sign Art Museum to not only educate but also entertain visitors. Finally, they also wanted the museum to focus on restoring old signs.

Image: Stephanie Stuckey

The Cooks officially opened the Ignite Sign Art Museum in 2018 in a former hardware store. It features a large assortment of signs on display, which include neon, electric, hand-painted, aluminum, and LED signs. Signs from local mom-and-pop operations sit next to nationwide brands most of us will remember seeing on the cross-country road trips of our youth — like the recently rescued iconic 76 gas station ball.

Image: Stephanie Stuckey

A Trip Through the Lights Fantastic

All of the signs are creatively displayed in storefront tableaux, reflecting scenes of everyday Tucson life — a diner, a living room, the hardware store, the Texaco station, the Lyric Theater, the Molina’s Midway Restaurant, the De Anza Drive-In Theater, and of course, there’s the Sign Yard.

Some highlights include:

·  a restored “15¢” sign from Mr. Quick Hamburgers that used to sit out near I-10 and South 6th Street — a remnant of a time when burgers only cost 15 cents. (Rumor has it that they also have the atomic sign that was once part of the Mr. Quick brand. Please say they’ve saved the chicken, too.)

·  a beautifully restored Sputnik sign.

·  miniature versions of famous Tucson signs that Jude restored, including the well-known Tucson “Gateway” saguaro cactus, the Canyon State Motor Lodge, the Ghost Ranch, and Pueblo Hotel’s famous Diving Girl signs.

· A whole wall of “NOs” – “No Parking,” “No Trespassing,” “No Smoking,” and other forbidden activities.

·  Cheers to all of those beer signs, too!

· the famous Arby’s hat — probably a little more than 10 gallons, not only is this sign huge, but it’s also full of beautiful neon and 169 dancing incandescent light bulbs.

There’s also a gift shop, and the museum hopes to soon give classes on how to restore old signs. The museum is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. — 4 p.m. Admission cost is $12 for adults, $10 for senior / active duty military, $8 for children  ages 6-17, and children under 6 are always free.

Image: Stephanie Stuckey

If you plan on traveling this summer and are looking for a place to relax, refresh, and refuel, all signs point to a stop at your local Stuckey’s location for best in road trip treats and kitschy souvenirs.

Or why not order fun for the whole family — the Stuckey’s “Road Trip Revival” Gift Box? Each box is packed with all the great Stuckey’s merchandise you’ll need to have a fun and exciting road trip including:

Three 2-oz. Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls

One 8-oz. Caramel Popcorn

One 4-oz. T&S Pecans

One Campfire Travel Enamel Mug

One Rubber Gator

One Coonskin Cap

One Stuckey’s Bumper Sticker

One Red Drinking Bird.

Order yours today at stuckeys.com, and have it delivered before your next road trip!

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!